Mozambique: Heroin Smugglers Caught Off Cabo Delgado

We published a detailed report on the heroin trade in Mozambique in 2018, on ( in Portuguese) pointing out that the trade has been going on for at least two decades, regulated at high level in Frelimo. The trade is entirely transit, by boat to Cabo Delgado, road to Johannesburg, then sea to Europe. We estimated that at least 40 tonnes of heroin per year passes through Mozambique, worth perhaps $1 bn, of which at least $100 mn stays in Mozambique - an important contribution to the local economy.

Heroin comes from Afghanistan and is taken to the Makran coast of Iran and Pakistan, where it is loaded on motorized wooden 15-metre Jelbut dhows and taken around the coast to Cabo Delgado. The Mozambique Defence Force picture (above) of the burning boat looks like a round stern Jelbut. ( SERNIC estimated the cargo (destroyed by the fire) at 1.5 tonnes, while we estimated that the typical cargo was 1 tonne of heroin. The boat was caught 50 km off the coast, which is the point at which the cargo is broken up into smaller units and put on small boats to take to beaches south of Pemba. This system is also used for other contraband. Heroin is picked up from the beach and taken to warehouses in Nacala and Nampula. From there it is taken by drivers by road to Johannesburg, where it is hidden in containers at the Johannesburg City Deep dry port. The coordination is increasingly done by secure messaging such as WhatsApp - for example fishing boat owners are given a time and a location 50 km at sea to do the pickup and a beach location for the drop, and they may not know which illegal cargo they are transporting. Drivers are similarly assigned to do the pickup. This is the Uberization of the heroin trade.

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